Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque ~ fragrance review

Serge Lutens Cuir MauresqueSerge Lutens Cuir Mauresque

One of the hazards of a bulging perfume cabinet is how hard it can be to justify buying another bottle, especially when you know you already have a few bottles from the same fragrance family. That's my dilemma with Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque. Since Cuir Mauresque became available in the United States last year, my fingers have wavered over the "add to shopping cart" button many a time. I tell myself Cuir Mauresque is special — warm and cozy, intimate and spicy, different from my other leathers. Meanwhile, Caron Tabac Blond, Lancôme Cuir de Lancôme, Bvlgari Black, Robert Piguet Bandit, Christian Dior Diorling, and probably some others I'm forgetting languish as they wait their turn in the fragrance rotation. What's a girl to do?

Serge Lutens launched Cuir Mauresque in 1996 as one of its non-export, bell jar "exclusives" (as opposed to the export line in the rectangular bottle). In 2010, Cuir Mauresque ("moorish leather") joined the export line for a limited edition run. Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake developed Cuir Mauresque, and its notes include mandarin peel, orange blossom, burnt styrax, incense, cinnamon, nutmeg, amber, myrrh, cumin, musk, cedar, and civet.

Like many of the Serge Lutens fragrances, Cuir Mauresque kicks off with a surprising note that offers a freaky insight into the rest of the fragrance. For Tubéreuse Criminelle, for instance, that note smells almost like gasoline, and once you've smelled it you see tuberose a whole different way. For Cuir Mauresque, the note is a sweet plastic that mingles with the fragrance's leather to remind me of a 1970s faux patent leather purse. The thing is, the petroleum side of plastic's smell aligns with the motor oil aspects of leather. It makes sense.

Lest you suspect Cuir Mauresque is headed down a path of discos, bondage, and Tupperware, think again. Cuir Mauresque warms into one of the snuggliest, most welcoming leather fragrances I've worn. Its mandarin peel and orange blossom work the way citrus does in baking rather. They keep the composition from cloying but definitely aren't tart or bracing. The spices — and I'd include cardamom with the listed cinnamon and nutmeg — feel so obviously right with the medium-weight leather. Cumin and musk are just barely noticeable, but they push Cuir Mauresque away from bundt cake toward skin. Warm, luxurious, grandpa-cardigan-wearing skin — that is, if your grandpa has worn his shape into his Bugatti's leather seats and has publishers clamoring for his memoir.

Cuir Mauresque is persistent, but it's a fairly quiet scent. I'd put its sillage at low to moderate. After about five hours on my skin, the leather and spice disappear, replaced with amber, vanilla, and a hint of patchouli. I wouldn't hesitate to wear it at the office once the top notes give way to the leathery heart of the fragrance. To me, it would be sexy and comfortable on men or women.

When I think of the man Serge Lutens, in my mind he is wearing Cuir Mauresque. I don't know Serge Lutens at all, but from his cryptic interviews and Confucius-like quotes, I imagine on first impression he might seem exotic and difficult to fathom. It would be hard to know what to say or how to respond to him. As you get to know him, though, surely his friendly, easy, but continually fascinating side comes out. Kind of like Cuir Mauresque.

If you are looking for a leather fragrance, you might want to give Cuir Mauresque a try. If, like me, you already have plenty of leather fragrances — well, good luck. I still can't decide.

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque Eau de Parfum is available as a 75 ml bell jar at the Paris Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido for 120€, or, for a limited time, as a 50 ml export in the rectangular spray bottle for $140. For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

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  1. Abyss says:

    You know, leather is one of my favourite notes in fragrance, possibly even THE favourite. There seem to be so many different ways to interpret it that I’m always curious to smell more. I just checked my notes and to date I’ve tried around 20 different leathers and – unlike, say, rose – so far found none to be outright boring or unpleasant.

    Cuir Mauresque reminded me of Knize Ten. I thought that it had a similar dry, slightly soapy, quiet character. I was quite surprised because I was expecting something more…untamed :D Like most Lutens I like it just fine but don’t adore it. I’m keeping my sample but doubt that I’ll ever need a bottle. Thankfully, there’s no lack of beautiful leathers out there.

    • Angela says:

      You’re a true leather fan! I found Cuir Mauresque to be spicier than Knize Ten, but it doesn’t sound like that’s how it plays on you. Here’s to lots of good leather fragrances to come!

  2. Jill says:

    I have a sample of this and will have to get it out again. Warm and cozy leather is totally my thing.

    • Angela says:

      The spices really cozy it up, in my opinion, and it’s a gentle fragrance. You have to get past the patent leather opening, though.

  3. Pimpinett says:

    I can’t make up my mind on Cuir Mauresque either, in part because while it’s lovely, I dont get much, if any, leather in it. It plays out very sweet on my skin as well, a spicy amber more than anything else, and I think that I just prefer leathers of the bitter, butch variety.

    • Angela says:

      Like you, I’d call Cuir Mauresque only moderately butch. It’s more boot leather than saddle leather, I think. Have you tried Knize Ten or XerJoff Homme? They’re rawer leathers to me.

      • Daisy says:

        just adding my .02 here—Xerjoff Homme is the BIGGEST, RAWEST leather imaginable…..if you are looking for 600lbs of raw leather with the subtlety of a sledgehammer…well, there ya go!

        • Angela says:

          It’s a raw one, all right. I like it, though! But I do love the spiciness of Cuir Mauresque.

  4. ggperfume says:

    So far, I’ve only had one sniff of this (at the SF Sniffa last Oct), but then it smelled exactly like a hippie head shop/leather shop circa 1968 – can’t believe it doesn’t have a load of patchouli in it. Good for an illusion of time travel, but I wouldn’t want to make it a long visit.

    • Angela says:

      I don’t see you as much of a head shop type of gal, either! It doesn’t smell too hippie-ish to me, though. I wonder what I would have thought if I hadn’t already know it was a Serge?

      • ggperfume says:

        I might get a sample of it, though, as it was such a convincing illusion. The leather makes it smell “hippie-ish” in a good way, as opposed to a “cheap patch and potsmoke” way. A dear friend of my youth once worked in a hippie leather shop – she made me a pair of sandals and a purse, which I loved. Still have the purse!

        • Angela says:

          So maybe you are a hippie girl after all! In any case, a good hippie-ish leather purse is always good to have around.

  5. Tama says:

    I smelled this at the SF Sniff, too, and kind of backed away. Too much too soon on top of everything else? I have since briefly smelled it again on paper, liked it better, and will give it another shot.

    Between that October Sniff and now I have fallen into the Uncle Serge trap and now own two.

    We’re sniffing again on May 7th – got another conference coming up around then?

    • Angela says:

      Which two Serges do you have? I have Chene, and that’s it for bottles, but I have decants of others.

      I wish I were there in May!

      • Tama says:

        I have Arabie and Fleur d’Oranger – Chene is on the list….

    • ggperfume says:

      Those great SAs at Barney’s gave me a sample of Bas de Soie at the October Sniffa, and it’s hitting the spot in our current weather. This post may be pushing me to get a tiny decant of Cuir Mauresque too, if only for laughs at its connotations (for me) of the ’60s.
      And I too wish Angela could join us again in May!

      • Angela says:

        I remember smelling it with you last October. It’s so elegant. Really a lovely fragrance for spring. I’m going to have to trot out my sample.

  6. Rictor07 says:

    Im close to giving up on leather fragrances. Ive yet to find a single one that I think actually smells like leather.

    • Angela says:

      Really? Do they end up smelling too oily on you–like motor oil? I hope you find one that works eventually!

      • Rictor07 says:

        Some of them do smell more like a polish or varnish. Some of them smell like a living dirty cow. Most of them however, just smell like the perfumer took too many creative liberties in the approximation of leather using an abundance of notes that have nothing at all to do with leather. Im not saying they are bad fragrances. im just saying i dont think there is anything out there that smells like true leather, and leather alone.

        • Angela says:

          I see what you mean. Well, I do hope you find the magic “leather” bullet at some point.

  7. mikeperez23 says:

    If I remember correctly, I read an interview w/ Monsieur Lutens, where when asked what scent in his line-up he actually wears, he replied that ‘ever so often he pours a whole bottle of Cuir Mauresque’ before he goes out at night’…or something like that. That stuck in my mind, when I tested CM.

    I love leather scents and I love SL scents, but I just didn’t feel the **love** for this one. Not sure why. I wanted to like it, but after all was said and done it felt just ‘okay’.

    • Angela says:

      There are to many fabulous perfumes out there to settle for one that is “just o.k.”. I guess you saved yourself some money on this one.

      Thanks for the story about Serge!

  8. Delfina says:

    I own a bottle, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it was lust, not love, that made me buy it. On me it’s sickly sweet and sits there, you know, without “mingling”. So I’m holding a grudge against it and we’re not talking.
    I love leather and have several other leather fragrances: Cuir de Lancome, Knize Ten, Bandit, Donna Karan Signature. I seem to have a difficult relationship with most of them, though, honestly. I think I’m still looking for the one that really blows me away, the one that I’m always happy to see and has no communication problems with me. And I’m hoping that Boxeuses might be it. Did you like it?

    • Angela says:

      I didn’t find Boxeuses super leathery, but I did like it. It sounds like you’ve run through a lot of leathers looking for Mr. Right! Have you tried Cuir Ottoman and Cuir de Russie?

      • Delfina says:

        I tried both, but I haven’t sniffed them for a very long time. I remember thinking that Cuir ottoman was too sharp, similar in a way to ELdO Rien, which I nowadays can’t stand near me. I think I will give Cuir de Russie another shot soon. I will force myself into the Chanel Boutique and smell it again, fighting my urge to go out with a giant tub of Sycomore.

        • Angela says:

          Oh yes, Sycomore. I wouldn’t mind a vat of that one, either.

        • Rick says:

          When I tried Rien, it started out as a leather scent, but turned into a hippy patchouli after a few hours. I had better luck with Cuir Ottoman. It’s a floral leather very much like Knize Ten, but with just enough barely perceptible vanilla to soften it.

          By the way, Sycomore comes in little tubs now, making it a lot harder to resist.

          • Angela says:

            I had that thought about Sycomore just as I pushed the “post comment” button. It’s a miracle I didn’t jumped straight to the internet to check prices. Perhaps I will now…

          • Delfina says:

            Yeah. I think I’ll come out at least with the little tub. But the giant one always holds its charm…

        • Daisy says:

          Not a Sycamore fan in particular ….but I adore those huge vats of Chanel LE’s —just feels so darn decadent , the lap of luxury , to heft one of those bottles and just start spraying with abandon!!! Every Chanel fan should own one those…..remember to laugh maniacally when you spray yourself down …trust me, it adds to the experience. ;-)

          • Angela says:

            I like the image! Yes, there really is something ridiculously, alluringly decadent about the jumbo bottles!

          • ggperfume says:

            Too bad they’re all edt strength. Chanels are at their best in extrait, imho – divine beauty.

  9. miss kitty v. says:

    Not to be too much of an enabler, but it does seem we will still be having cool weather here, possibly forever… so a nice, cozy scent is still in order.

    • Angela says:

      I thought I smelled a little spring in the air late last week, but since then it’s nonstop cold and rain. Cuir Mauresque would be awfully warming….

      • miss kitty v. says:

        Wouldn’t it? I’m still obsessing over getting a bottle of MKK…

        • Angela says:

          I think about MKK, too, or the L’Artisan Oud, along the same lines. It’s so nice to have a warm, skin-like skank fragrance in the arsenal.

        • Daisy says:

          y’all are scaring me…

          • Angela says:

            Yes, we’ll have a pack of dogs following us around…

  10. Jared says:

    Never tried this one, but I am curious. Leathers are now one of my favorites. I’m currently conducting a love affair with Knize Ten. Is that ever in rotation for you, or does that fall into the too-masculine camp?

    • Angela says:

      I don’t own any Knize Ten (yet!), but if I did I’m sure I’d wear it. I love the juxtaposition of dress with a rough fragrance.

  11. FragrantWitch says:

    ‘Discos, bondage and Tupperware’ conjures quite the mental image!
    ;-) I’ll have to sniff this one as leather is becoming a favourite- I am wearing Black today, in fact. Knize Ten in on my list as well so I am glad to see some love for it here.

    • Angela says:

      I adore Black, but lately the musk in it has been getting to be a little too much for me. Knize Ten is wonderful, and I’ll need a bottle of it at some point, I just know.

  12. Merlin says:

    Of all the leathers I have tried I like Cuir Ottoman the most. In fact I adore it; unfortunately it doesn’t last much longer than an hour on my skin and so I have not bought a bottle ) :

    • Angela says:

      Oh, too bad! Half an hour is not much time at all for a fragrance to last!

  13. Are you not a decant girl? Because conundrums such as this are exactly why I have a zillion little glass sprayers in my closet. ;-)

    At any rate, an excellent description of CM! Have you ever tried to layer it with Fleurs d’Oranger? Gaia over on The Non-Blonde claims that the result stops traffic.

    • Angela says:

      I do have about a dram of it, but that hardly seems like enough! But then again, maybe it’s more than enough since I have so many other leathers to wear.

      Love the fleur d’oranger layering suggestion, and I’m going to give it a try.

  14. Tom Smith says:

    God I cannot imagine layering a Serge Lutens scent. They’re already as busy, charged and synthetic as a toy poodle on crystal meth.

    This one sounds equally intolerable as most Lutens, what with the references to both cake and curry.

    SL is my bête noire – I am convinced he makes a fragrance I would adore, but it’s impossible to find amidst all the nose-lasers he makes. They are always both fascinating and obnoxious.

    • Merlin says:

      A lot of them are pretty powerful, but others seem quite moderate to me, like the 5 o’ clock gigembre. Sa Majeste Larose is also quite an austere rose, to me…
      But I love the image of a toy poodle on meth! Actually, i think toy poodles are suited perfectly to meth!

      • Angela says:

        That’s a frightening image!

        Serge fragrances suit me well and often mellow into something comfortable rather than overwhelming. I wonder if it’s a skin thing?

    • Angela says:

      You probably wouldn’t be a fan of Cuir Mauresque, then. Although it does sound like he elicits strong responses in you!

    • Daisy says:

      my dear, you get extra points just for using a term like “nose-lasers”

  15. Nile Goddess says:

    Angela, I love all your reviews. They are extravagant, poetic, full of old-world charm and spirit, in one word, delightful. Every time I read one, I am mesmerized.

    After reading your review of Cuir Mauresque though, I feel like the usual soft scented cloud under me suddenly vanished and I landed face forward on hard cement.

    If Cuir Mauresque was a poem, it would be Mahabharata and Ramayana. If a legend, it would be the Ilyad and Odysseus. If a novel, it would be Gone With the Wind. It deserves more than a review, it deserves and ode.

    Were you in a hurry when you wrote the review? Had a bad cold? At any case, you did not even begin to do Cuir Mauresque justice. How can someone wax lyrical about Shalimar and find so little to say about Cuir Mauresque?

    When you say you imagine Serge Lutens wearing it, you were right. Serge does not use fragrance at home at all, but when he goes out, the only fragrance he ever wears is Cuir Mauresque. He drenches himself with a full bottle. That should mean something.

    Please reconsider your review, or enrol Robin or Kevin to help. This is nowhere near enough. Thank you!

    • Angela says:

      I want to smell Cuir Mauresque on YOU! It must be magnificent!

      • Nile Goddess says:

        Now I understand :-)

        See, I am anosmic to Shalimar. Can’t understand what the fuss is about.

        Cuir Mauresque on me IS magnificent :-)

        • Angela says:

          I do love Cuir Mauresque on me, but it does sound terrifically splendid on you. I really like the subtle spiciness behind the leather, especially. I can’t think of any other leather fragrance that melds those ideas so gently and seamlessly that they seem inevitable–like they always should be together.

          How sad not to smell some of Shalimar! Still, lots of people don’t like it, so maybe it’s for the best.

          • Nile Goddess says:

            I don’t dislike Shalimar, just don’t “get” it.

            There was one flanker called Eau Legere with a gorgeous turqoise color and a wonderful Oriental model advertising it. That one I resonated with. The others are just water with a bit of weak vanilla for me, more’s the pity. :-)

            With Cuir I don’t know, maybe it’s the plastic, after all I love Hypnotic Poison, adn that too has some plasticky note :-D

          • Angela says:

            There’s something to be said for a hint of plastic!

    • Merlin says:

      Drenches himself with a bottle? One of the 50ml ones or the bell-jars?
      Does he get a discount on them? More to the point, will anyone come near him? Perhaps it discourages journalists from getting too close!

      • Angela says:

        I bet he uses the 75-ml bottle. No going halfway for Serge. And I bet he smells divine!

  16. Daisy says:

    Angela, your review prompted me to revisit my sample of Cuir Grotesque er, I mean Mauresque…yes, yes, of course, Mauresque….. okay, sorry…but I’m only sort of kidding. The notes read like instant love….but the reality is a whopping snoot full of sweet tupperware set too close to the fire….(a waste of good tupperware if you ask me)…I don’t get patchouli (thank goodness) and only little whiffs of cumin…I am noticing more of the oily tang of the mandarin peel, a bit of nutmeg…the leathery note seems very synthetic but that might be a result of the overwhelming “tupperware on fire” note…. at least the fire burned off the initial note of decay…….
    I used to eschew Serge Lutens after my initial samplings…..I made faces and said unpleasant things like “hot mess” and “who would do such a thing!!” …..years pass….I overcame my aversion, revisited and now I own several SLs although I wouldn’t put any of them in my Favorite Top 5 of All Time….. Cuir Mauresque , however, is going in the “out” basket.

    • Angela says:

      Daisy, you’re killing me! (However, I’m dying laughing, so that’s not so bad.) Oh well, more Cuir Mauresque for me, I guess!

  17. nozknoz says:

    Ah, I need to try this, if only to find out what Uncle Serge likes to smell like! :-)

    I recently bought my first SL FB: Daim Blond – I love that subtle leather/apricot combo! I wish La Myrrhe was available in export, since it’s one of my top ten. I sometimes get a plasticky note from it, too – I wonder if it’s the same plastic note you are getting in CM…

    • Angela says:

      Daim Blond is wonderful! La Myrrhe is terrific, too, and I can’t really think of many fragrances like it. I’d be interested to know what you think if you do get around to trying Cuir Mauresque.

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